The National Fair Housing Alliance is accusing Bank of America (BAC) of discriminating against Latino mortgage applicants.
The charges stem from a months-long undercover investigation of the mortgage application process at a Bank of America branch in Charleston, S.C., NFHA says in a housing discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The NFHA investigation sent a mixture of white and Latino people posing as prospective borrowers to the Bank of America branch, the alliance said in a press release Tuesday. The Latino borrowers had higher incomes, better employment histories and more funds available for down payments and closing costs, but Bank of America treated them worse than the white applicants, the release says.
"Bank of America denied prospective Latino borrowers' requests to speak with a loan officer about obtaining a home loan or quoted prospective Latino borrowers a higher monthly payment and closing costs, compared to treatment of similarly situated but less qualified prospective white borrowers," the NFHA says in the release.
These lending practices violate the Fair Housing Act, according to the NFHA complaint. The number of home loan applications from Latino borrowers has slowed in the Charleston region over the past few years, with Bank of America's share of those applications plunging more than its competitors', the complaint also says.
B of A defended its lending practices and challenged the depth of the accusations. "Bank of America is committed to fair and responsible lending and has a strong record of supporting all local communities, regardless of demographic makeup," a spokesman said in an email Wednesday. "Customers from minority communities account for one in every four home loans we originate. NFHA has not provided specific information about their allegations."
The number of home loan applications from Latino borrowers has slowed in the Charleston region over the past few years, with Bank of America's share of those applications plunging more than its competitors', according to the NFHA complaint.
The NFHA is a consortium of nonprofit organizations and individuals seeking to prevent housing discrimination.
The city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against Bank of America in December that contained similar accusations of discrimination against minority borrowers.
Bank of America also faces a separate housing discrimination complaint filed by the NFHA. HUD is investigating the alliance's charges that Bank of America failed to maintain the upkeep of foreclosed homes in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods compared to its meticulous treatment of foreclosed homes in white communities.